Joshlynn Sandoval serves as a Registered Dental Assistant at Community Health Development, Inc. (CHDI) in Uvalde Texas. This is Joshlynn’s story, shared with her fellow CHDI staff members when she returned from the 2017 Midwest Stream Forum for Agricultural Worker Health.
Going into this year’s (Midwest Stream Forum) Health Conference I didn’t know what to expect. I was extremely excited to hear the conference would be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While attending each conference session I met new people who were from different parts of the U.S. I was amazed to see so many people gathered for the same purpose, I would hear each individual speak so passionately about their occupation, their purpose, what their goals were, and what they hope to do for their Health Center in the years to come. Some of these centers had things like mobile dental units, mobile labs, and providers that would go out to the fields and see their patients. It was amazing to hear that these centers would go that extra mile to ensure these Agricultural workers knew they had dental and medical services available to them. Hearing these things were even possible lit a fire inside me to say I want that for my Community, I want to go that extra mile.
As each session went on I would hear the speakers talk about migrant workers, H2A workers and seasonal workers. To my surprise, I didn’t even know the difference between them. These people spoke to us about the workers and their struggles, struggles like physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental issues, pesticide exposure, food insecurity, homelessness...the list continued.
Going to bed at night I had all these facts running through my mind. I went back to the days when I was a little girl; my father would work a full time job in one of the big manufacturing companies here in our community. Once his shift was over he would head out to the fields to help pick and sack vegetables; he would’ve been considered a seasonal worker. I didn’t understand at that time he needed to do this to help provide that extra money our family needed. Just like most of these men, women, even children who work from early morning to late at night in the hot sun to help provide for their families to still live in poverty at the end of the day.
These agricultural workers are the heart of our food pyramid--What are we doing to help keep them healthy? Our Health Centers are available to them, but how many of them know that? How many of these workers are afraid to come to our Health Center, in fear of deportation...Most of these people would rather suffer than be forced to leave their families, wouldn't you do the same? It is our job, not only as health care workers, but as family, to get the word out to these workers that we are here and we do stand for them. Let’s help these people live longer lives, let’s help stop their suffering, not only for the workers but for their families just the same.
Ask me why I care and I will tell you I care for the person that helps supply our stores with food for my children to eat, I care for those children out in those fields forced to work for less than minimum wage, I care for the mothers and fathers who put their lives at risk every day to support their families just like my father did for me.
I was asked to bring something back that I could share with my fellow coworkers...Of everything I have written, I hope I brought back that fire. The fire that says yes we can do this, yes we will stand for these families and make the noise to let them know we are here and we will work for them just like they do for us every day.
-- Joshlynn Sandoval, RDA
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The National Center for Farmworker Health
Improving health care access for one of America's most vulnerable populations